Merciless Waters

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Pub Date 14 Nov 2023 | Archive Date 01 Dec 2023

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Aboard the ship Scylla, there is no future or past. Jaq, her fickle lover Lily, and their all-female crew exist in an endless present. It's better this way. At least it keeps Lily by Jaq's side, where she belongs. But the meddling gods care little for Jaq's longing, and despite her protective rituals, their punishment arrives all the same:

A man, adrift on the open ocean. Delivered to snatch Lily from Jaq's arms forever.

Jaq knows what to do. She's lost Lily before. Her lover will return-when this interloper, this distraction, is snuffed out. But Jaq's murderous schemes may not be enough. The intruder's presence infects her crew with a plague her spells cannot cure: memory. And as the women recall how they came to Scylla, their minds bend one by one towards revenge.

Aboard the ship Scylla, there is no future or past. Jaq, her fickle lover Lily, and their all-female crew exist in an endless present. It's better this way. At least it keeps Lily by Jaq's side...

Advance Praise

"Erotic and sensually developed. Lush with vibrant characters and unashamed in its horror and honesty, Merciless Waters is a powerful rush from cover to cover."
—C.S. Humble, author of the Black Wells Series

"Lush and imaginative, tense and atmospheric, Merciless Waters is a vengeful fever dream drowned in saltwater."
—Rachel Harrison, national bestselling author of Cackle and Such Sharp Teeth

“Batten down the hatches because Rae Knowles will drag you to the briny depths with this wild, immersive tale of seafaring adventure, ancient myth, grim revenge, and salty desire. These women buccaneers will hook you!”
—Tim McGregor, author of Lure

A worthy follow-up to The Stradivarius, Rae Knowles’ Merciless Waters is a visceral, sexy, and sweetly romantic tale of jealousy and revenge. I especially loved its distinctive prose, which is ornate and stripped-down by turns.
—Christi Nogle, author of Bram Stoker Award® winning first novel Beulah

Merciless Waters seethes with feminine rage and drips with sapphic desire. Knowles weaves a story full of unreliable queer women doing unthinkable things, laces it with dark magic, and dyes it in revenge. Gripping, immersive, and relentless, you'll find no heroes here.”
—Evelyn Freeling, Editor of Les Petites Morts

Merciless Waters is the perfect bite of horror—a sexy blend of folklore, longing, and maritime terror. If you're missing the sea this fall, cozy up with this spooky, salty gem!”
—Hatteras Mange, Editor of Diet Milk Magazine

“Knowle’s queer, revenge-fueled, energetic pirate romp presents plenty of adventure and saphic yearning to hook you right away. It keeps you perched on the edge of your seat until the stunning climax.”
—Briana Morgan, author of The Reyes Incident

"Erotic and sensually developed. Lush with vibrant characters and unashamed in its horror and honesty, Merciless Waters is a powerful rush from cover to cover."
—C.S. Humble, author of the Black Wells...

Available Editions

ISBN 9781957537702
PRICE $4.99 (USD)

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Average rating from 129 members

Featured Reviews

Merciless Waters is a beautifully dark story about Rusalka. I was hooked from start to finish—this is a perfect book to sink your teeth into for spooky season. The atmosphere and setting were immaculate, picture: an all female crew endlessly sailing the ocean, moonlit rituals for old gods, a possessive and jealous relationship between lovers, an interloper who uncovers hidden memories, and a hell of a lot of feminine rage. 100% would recommend and plan to get a physical copy to read again in the future.

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My Rating: 4.75

CW: gore, animal death, sexual content, murder, violence

My thoughts:
"A simple truth known long to men and only now discovered by womenfolk. We crave violence. So we swallow violent men."

First of all: The cover is so pretty! As is the prose!
It is fast-paced, engaging and a bit fucked up.
This book is based on the "Rusalka" in Slavic mythology (man hating woman by the water). So that is what we have: A bunch of violent, murderous women sailing the sea forever, searching for revenge and I absolutely adored it.
The main romance was not only sapphic but also really messed up and non of the characters were really likeable and that was all weirdly refreshing to read.
I truly love reading about unhinged women.

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The writing was amazing, the setting and plot were top notch! Lesbian pirates who EAT MEN? It was way better than I expected. I loved the ending too. I very much enjoyed the twists as their memories came back and more of their past was revealed. I'd highly recommend this to fantasy and horror genre fans alike. I hope there is a sequel.

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Special thanks to NetGalley and Brigids Gate Press for the ARC copy they provided.

This is the first book review I’ve started in awhile where I’ve sat down with nothing to say off the top of my head. No lines to quote, no scenes that intensely stand out in my mind that I need to shriek about.

And yet, all of that is a supreme compliment because generally when I’m reading an ARC, and I know I will be writing a review, I go in looking for those things I mentioned above. I go slow, picking out the pieces that deserve a call out in my review. Reading Merciless Waters made me forget to do any of that.

I started reading, and immediately fell in and didn’t come out again until the book was done. It was a slow day on the job, and I literally read this book all in one sitting, without a thought. It consumed me, heart, soul, and body, and, really, what more could you ask of a book? That is WHY we go to books, to be consumed.

And Merciless Waters delivers.

In spades.

Merciless Waters begins at exactly the right place, the middle of a long history, and effortlessly takes you back to the beginning, while still propelling you toward the unexpected, but completely logical ending. Every piece of the book is built to deliver you to that inevitable end, and yet, do you expect it? No. Not in the least.

And for me, a person who prides himself on his love for, and dedication to, story development, that is the highest praise.

This book was satisfying in all the right ways. Dark, unexpected, and delightfully sexy, with deep mythology strewn so subtly throughout that you won’t even notice it until near the penultimate moment.


If you’re looking for a read that will pick you up like water, and carry you through to the satisfying shore of compilation, this book is for you. Highly looking forward to whatever Rae Knowles writes next.

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This is a book that is melancholic, like a song carried by salty sea breeze and heavy wind. It holds semblance to TO THE LIGHTHOUSE in its breathless, longing, and yearning prose that often read like sighs—poetic, vivid, and rhythmic. For those looking for a story that explores memory, trauma, and recollection that is tender, sore, and like skin rubbed raw, this elegant and seductive tale is one to pick up.

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